The number of cyclists killed or seriously hurt on the region’s roads has dropped by a fifth since West Midlands Police launched an operation protecting them from ‘close pass’ drivers.
#OpClosePass was introduced by the force a year ago and sees plain clothes cops pedalling busy roads on the lookout for motorists who pass too close for comfort.
Almost 200 offenders have been pulled over during close-pass operations. Most have been allowed on their way after being given an on-the-spot educational input on safe overtaking using a specially designed floor mat.
However, 13 drivers were prosecuted and around 350 others fined and given licence points after officers reviewed helmet- and dash-cam footage provided by members of the public.
The number of cyclists involved in serious road smashes in the last year has dropped by 20 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.
And PC Mark Hodson, from West Midlands Police’s Force Traffic Unit, believes the close pass patrols have helped contribute to the reduction and is saving lives.
He said: “I am in no doubt the operation has played a big part in that reduction: we regularly speak to cycling groups and their members are telling us that the message is getting through to drivers. They are, on the whole, being more considerate and understand we will prosecute them if they endanger cyclists.
“To see a fall of 20 per cent in the number of serious collisions involving cyclists is incredible especially against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people cycling on our roads.
“We’ve seen reports of close-passes halve in the West Midlands since we started the project and it’s great that so many other regions are looking to adopt the approach."
PC Hodson was among the traffic cops hosting representatives from 28 other police forces at a Close Pass Conference on Tuesday (19 Sept) as traffic teams across the UK look to mirror the success of the West Midlands scheme.
UK Cycling described #OpClosePass as the “best cyclist road safety initiative ever".
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety officer, said: “Cycling UK knew West Midlands Police were on to a winner when they rolled out their “Give Space, be Safe" campaign…that’s why we backed it from the start. It’s a cost effective initiative that has proved highly effective at changing dangerous driving behaviour."
Two close-pass motorists have been taken to court having denied inconsiderate driving and both were landed with fines and costs topping £1,000 having been found guilty.
From August 2016 to July this year, 92 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the West Midlands − down from 115 in the previous 12 months.
West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson added: “I am extremely proud of West Midlands Police’s pioneering close pass scheme; we must have mutual respect on the roads and it is vital cyclists are afforded the same rights and protection as any other road user.
“As a former Transport Minister, I understand the importance of road safety and made it a top priority in my Police and Crime Plan. This is outstanding work by West Midlands Police."